Colour spectrum and resin-type determine the concentration and composition of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in plastic pellets

This study assessed the concentration and composition of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in plastic pellets, collected from sandy beaches and considered different resin and colour tones. Results showed that polyethylene pellets, while displaying a greater range of total PAH concentrations did not differ significantly from polypropylene pellets. More importantly, both resin types demonstrated predictable increases in total PAH across a spectrum of darkening colour tones. Multivariate comparisons of 36 PAH groups, further showed considerable variability across resin type and colour, with lighter coloured pellets comprising lower molecular weight, while darker pellets contained higher weight PAHs. Overall, we show predictable variation in PAH concentrations and compositions of plastic pellets of different ages and resin types that will directly influence the potential for toxicological effects. Our findings suggest that monitoring programs should take these attributes into account when assessing the environmental risks of microplastic contamination of marine and coastal habitats.

Mara Fisner, Alessandra Majer, Satie Taniguchi, Márcia Bícego, Alexander Turra, Daniel Gorman, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 3 July 2017, In Press

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